SP-2004-00030 Old Mills Trail (Sign #11, 12, 13) - Request for a special use permit to permit fill in the floodplain and allow for bridges and culverts for the purpose of constructing a Class A greenways trail, in accordance with Section 30.3.5.2.2(3) and Section 30.3.05.2.1(2) of the Zoning Ordinance which allows for fill in the floodplain and for installation of bridges and culverts, respectively.  The properties, described as Tax Map 77, Parcel 41 and Tax Map 78, Parcel 58L, contain a total of 26.213 acres, and are zoned C-1 (Commercial) and EC (Entrance Corridor) and RA (Rural Area) and EC (Entrance Corridor), respectively. The trail will be located within the floodplain of the Rivanna River south of Richmond Road (US Route 250 E) from Free Bridge to the southeast side of the Riverbend Garden Apartments and just north of Richmond Road along Free Bridge Lane almost up to Elks Drive.  The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Parks and Greenways in Neighborhood 3. (Francis MacCall)

Mr. MacCall summarized the staff report. The applicant is requesting approval to allow fill in the floodplain in the construction of bridges, culverts and retaining walls to allow for the upgrade of the existing greenway trail.  Staff has reviewed this request for compliance with the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Ordinance and recommends approval with the conditions as stated in the report.  If the Commission has any questions, he would be happy to answer them. He pointed out that the applicant is here.

Mr. Thomas asked if the Commissioners had any questions for staff.  There being none, he opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission.

Dan Mahon, Outdoor Recreation Planner/Greenway Coordinator for Albemarle County, stated that the only thing that he might add that was not written here that that might help describe this a little bit better for this particular site was that they started with a Class B type of trail, which was a simple Appalachian type of trail standard with very minimize disturbance of the ground. It was primarily for the clearing of brush for opening an area up. As shown on the plan, the whole trail comes all the way down and around that loop.  Actually the area they were talking about right now terminates at the bottom at the river bend. There was an area of deposit or a depositional zone which was created when the river floods and drops its sediment.  It is a fairly level area to start with.  It was really easy to put a Class B trail in that area.  He pointed out that the sewer lines have established a very decent trail bed in most of this route which he was using in his design of the trail. The impact is there and whatever major grading that has occurred out there happened when the sewer line was put in. If you have ever walked in that area, there is an area that is cut through with a man hole within the canyon.  That was done by the Service Authority when the sewer line went in.  He stated that he had been working very closely with the Service Authority. The Service Authority likes the idea of the County co-locating trails in these areas because they need to maintain them as open anyway.  That has existed up until very recently as a Class B trail, which has already been put in.  The Rivanna Trails Foundation has worked with the County along with numerous volunteers to do that work.  Much of the work that he was doing right now has been done with volunteer groups, which includes fraternities.  Recently, the County has hired a foreman.  Currently they are running a crew of inmates from the jails.  It is a program where the inmates get some time off or some compensation or understanding for their contribution to this.  Typically, they always have three or four individuals who are eager to work as opposed to them just sitting in the jail. The inmates have been great workers. It is a permanent program that the County has started around the parks, but primarily they are there for the trail system as it emerges.  The County has the desire to bring this up to a Class A trail. This is significant because they hope to be able to define it better, widen it and provide the kind of access that emergency vehicles need to get down it.  The standard width that they have set for the trail would be to accommodate an emergency vehicle for police and fire/rescue ATVís.  As a result, it will give a nice firm surface that is suitable for bicycles and hikers. The one issue that really brought this forward is staff seeing that there was a need to review it.  There is an area that has been eroding that was identified on the plan.  That area is very unstable and the path comes right through that area.  Working with the volunteers he began to build a structure to stabilize that area and to create trail surfaces.  That detail is shown on page 8 in Attachment C, which was the first cross section that he had drawn in a long time. But, this work was being done with volunteers. Finally, when he stood back and looked at it, he determined that this area needed to be looked at.  Actually, all along the way he has worked very close with Glen Brooks, Dave Hirschman and internal staff and having them check what he has been doing.  He stated that he felt that this structure has reached the point where it needs to undergo a special use permit.  This issue is something that is going to occur quite often as they are working in some of these areas where they need to either stabilize or retain an area of the river that will require a structure and some fill. 

Mr. Thomas asked what the plans were for coming under Route 250 Bridge and connecting the northern section to the southern section.

Mr. Mahon stated that they have permission from VDOT to actually level that rip-rap out to create a shelf.  If you go down there that work has actually been done with volunteers. They have gotten permission from VDOT to work in that area and to level it out to create a nice tread.  It served very well under the Class B standard, but they are at the point it needs to be wider in order to allow the ATVís to go through.  They have worked very carefully up to this point.  But, currently they have stopped the work until there is an understanding to what the impact will be and if there is any more fill that needs to come in.  Primarily, it was just for moving that rip-rap and leveling it out.

Mr. Thomas asked if there was an entrance or exit right here.

Mr. Mahon stated that he wished that it was.  It is incredibly steep there and at this point they don't have an egress point for someone coming down the river on the trail.  The County owns the property to the road, but without building a staggering stairway or something that it is too steep at that point.  He noted that he met with the owner of the property three parcels down that has an access point that they may be able to use. Those three parcels down the river are currently on the verge of being signed as easements and then may come on line.

Mr. Thomas asked how high the trail would be above the level of the water and if it would all be in the floodplain.

Mr. Mahon stated that all of the trail would be located in the floodplain.  If you look at a typical cross section of the river where the river slows down that there is a hump or an edge to the river where sediment is dropped when it floods and the water reaches the bank. The trail is actually on the inside of that edge, which is one of the things that we need to address in creating a Class A trail because when it floods and the river goes over that it gets behind that edge.  But, when the river goes down that water needs to go back out. Then it starts racing, eroding and defining its way in different avenues.  That is where they were looking very carefully at the materials that they used and the way that water leaves the site.  They have identified a couple places where culverts should be put in.  They have been looking at using compacted stone dust of about 3 to 4 inches over a gravel base.  But even with using that they know that they are going to have to address it.  This is a very dramatic landscape to try to design within. Around the bend, that area use to be mined for gravel. There are many piles that were created with that use, which makes that a really complicated area to work with. 

Ms. Joseph asked who the County received the grant from.

Mr. Mahon stated that the grant was received from the Virginia Conservation and Recreation Trail Fund.  The County received a grant of approximately $30,000 to $40,000.  He added that the County has a budget for the greenway system, but he was doing everything he could to find additional grants or any other extra way of complimenting this effort.  He pointed out that he was working to expand those funds.  The County also received a grant for the plan that had greenways and blue ways written on it for $2,000 worth of hand tools from the State Forestry Department. 

Ms. Higgins stated that the application says that this is to create Class A trails along this particular strip. She asked if the whole trail was going to be Class A.

Mr. Mahon pointed out that it was going to be Class A just to that point.  Beyond the river bend the landscape was just too difficult and they would not be able to carry it any further.  It was going to terminate there as a Class A trail with a wheel chair access path with a viewing area and an area to watch wildlife.

Ms. Higgins stated that the Class A talks about an 8 foot wide paved surface or an 8 foot wide crushed stone surface.  She asked if they were leaning towards using crushed stone or would this ever be paved.

Mr. Mahon stated that he would not say that it wonít, but the crushed stone was what he was finding as being one of the best materials to use out there. He stated that asphalt does hold up better, but it does erode and this is a very sandy soil. The one thing that he has learned about this is that to have one standard and to try to apply it across this whole thing is going to be a problem because the soil and composition changes so much that it really has to be site specific.

Ms. Higgins stated that Mr. Brooksí memo was an overall perspective, which was very good. In the memo Mr. Brooks talks about a level area of about 5 feet wide. She pointed out that she got confused because the 5 feet seems to apply to the Class B.

Mr. Edgerton pointed out that it showed 6 feet also.

Ms. Higgins stated that the reason that she brought this up was that at the point where the Class A trail becomes a paved surface that she felt that the dynamics of a lot of things can change because if it was paved and when water is on the asphalt that it moves faster and then it becomes more destructive.  Therefore, she was not sure that if a section was going to be paved or if there was a way to incorporate it into this that a more detailed engineering approval may be considered. The other reason why she brings this up is that they were looking at a permit here for the County to do a part of the greenway trail. The County is also looking at various developments with sections of greenway trails. What she sees in this is not a real clear explanation of when they are going to create 2:1 slopes and she did not see any mention of an erosion control plan.  She acknowledged that most of the destruction that was done down there was probably done concurrent with the sewer line installation. But, they were going in a direction to hold people to a different standard and she wanted to make it clear when they see these types of things come in on plans with sensitive areas that it would require a lot more information.  She stated that she did not have any problem with filling in the floodplain where it was located.  But, if it was a Class A trail and it was non-paved, she felt that they would do the least amount of destruction as possible.  But, there were some areas in which they would be leaving behind 2:1 slopes and our own erosion and sediment control regulations donít seem to be applying here.  If they do this she wanted to make sure everyone was aware that they were going in that direction.

Mr. Rieley stated that he thought that was an excellent point.  In fact, he felt that this plan ought to be cleaned up. He noted that 50 percent was 2:1 slope. When you cut into 2:1 slopes it means that you are creating a slope greater than 2:1.  The County would be creating a slope that was steeper than 2:1, which was in violation of our own standards.  He noted that Ms. Higginsís point was very well taken because the Commission is going to see these coming in and they need to hold the County to the same standards that they hold other people.

Mr. Mahon stated that they actually donít have anything in this section that is cut like this at all because they are just following the sewer line. This detail was just stuck in here to showing typical cross sections.

Mr. Rieley stated that there were some discrepancies.  He suggested that they should probably take that out.  He stated that he did not know what their limitations were, but if this was less expensive to build than what they were going to require to be built on a piece of greenway somewhere else that they had better think about it.

Ms. Higgins asked how they could close that gap.  She stated that they donít want to make this more tedious for the County to do on a minimal budget when a sewer line is already there and the path of the sewer line could be used. She pointed out that the access to the Service Authorityís manholes was needed.  Also, access for emergency vehicles is a reality.  She stated that she wished there was a way to close that gap. Staffís prior work on the trail could be washed away today and they might need to be in there repeated times. It is troublesome to see some of the slopes and the fills on the down sides. Mr. Brookís memo talks about a zoning text amendment to be pursued to allow filling in the floodplain for trail building subject to approval by the County Engineer. She suggested that his comment not be disregarded because the review could be helpful.

Mr. Mahon stated that was the character of most of this work.  There may be some steep cuts, but it might be for 5 to 10 feet.  The comment that Mr. Brooks made about that 5 foot wide trail was for this one structure, which was 40 feet long where the detail is.

Ms. Higgins asked if he was possibly looking at something that was very specific and then staff used it in a general sense.  She stated that she had taken it as a general comment.

Mr. Mahon stated that the Service Authority keeps their easements open enough to drive a pick up truck through in order that they can survey the lines.  County staff was looking at once it gets into the open areas to maintain it at about 8 feet.  But, there are areas such as this where it will get narrower.  It will still allow the emergency vehicles to pass.  

Ms. Higgins stated that the CCC has been building these trails for a long time.  Those trails are very much the same in that there are rocks piled up on one side with similar retaining structures.  She stated that she did not know what the right answer is, but she just wanted to bring that up because there might be another request before the Commission and they canít leave it out of the limits of an erosion plan and then they have got issues.

Ms. Joseph asked if there was a Design Manual Team.

Ms. Higgins stated that there was, but that it has never met.

Ms. Joseph suggested that this was something that could be included in it.

Ms. Higgins stated that the last time the Commission had any greenway discussion was on Old Trail.  She stated that she still had not gotten any good feeling about whether the County is working with developers to get them to build and maintain the trails or is it totally going to be done by the County.  She questioned how all of those details would work.  One of the things that was brought up was what are the standards going to be.  If these are going to be the standards, should they be in the Design Manual.

Ms. Joseph suggested that a meeting should be called to address these types of issues.

Ms. Higgins stated that she was trying to come up with a good way to be helpful to make staff feel comfortable that what he is doing is the right thing.  But, is this project being given priority within the Engineering Department to provide some guidance possibly on the capital project side.  This has been an issue for many years in the County when the County does its own project if they call on internal staff or hire somebody.  She stated that they hate to spend that money, but still want to do it efficiently. She noted that she did have concerns when you start talking Class A because of the effects.

Mr. Thomas asked how many sections will be Class A trails.

Mr. Mahon stated that actually there were very few sections of Class A if you look at the overall plan.  This is the section of greenway that they would invite tourist to, which would be a very public type of trail.  The other trails are located in remote areas, such as along Dunlora, and are all Class B.  However, he would like to add that in Crozet through the master planning process that what was originally put down as a Class B trail system was being upgraded to a Class A.  That was done through the process after listening to the communityís input due to their desire to bring bicycles in.  The County will be doing something similar in the Pantops area as they begin inviting public input regarding the master plan for that area, particularly for this Class B trail and what is desirable in this area. 

Mr. Thomas asked if any other Commissioner would like to weigh in on this discussion regarding if it was a Class A and what the Commission should require or recommend.

Mr. Joseph stated that she would feel comfortable if they added another condition that required engineering approval so that would cover any erosion and sedimentation issue.

Mr. Fritz stated that there was another condition # 2 that goes over to the second page, which was County Engineer approval of the construction plan.  This is difficult language and staff struggled with many of the same things.  If it was over 10,000 square feet, then it would require an erosion and sediment plan.  He pointed out that those concerns were similar, and he hoped that it picked up what she was after. 

Ms. Higgins stated that she thought that it did, but just wanted to bring it to the Planning Commissionerís attention that they would agree with these same conditions if it were any applicant.  She stated that she was not so much of a component of holding the County to a higher standard, but to an equivalent standard.  She felt that was pretty reasonable.  But, there might be spot areas that someone has to flag and bring to the attention of the Engineering Department to have them look at. The other down side is that it will repeatedly wash out if you donít use some sort of technique or put a pipe in or whatever.  That would not be the path of least resistance for the well meaning people. 

Mr. Mahon stated that while that was not a policy, that has been his practice. When there was an area that he felt like he needed a second opinion he would call the landowner out or someone on staff out to check on it.

Mr. Thomas asked if there was any public present who would like to speak on this application at this time.  There being no one, he closed the public hearing to bring it back to the Commission for discussion and possible action.

Ms. Joseph moved for approval of SP-2004-00030, Old Mills Trail, with the conditions as recommended in the staff report.

  1. Approval by the Service Authority of the grade changes that may affect the sewer lines located within the greenways trail.
  2. County Engineer approval of the construction plan.

Mr. Rieley seconded the motion.

The motion carried by a vote of (6:0).  (Craddock absent)

Mr. Thomas stated that the motion carried for the SP-2004-0030, Old Mills Trail, and would go to the Board of Supervisors on October 13, 2004.

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